Even in the 21st Century, many countries seem to be unwilling to put members of their respective female populaces into places of authority. Below, we list the countries where women's legislative representation at the national level remains at its lowest levels globally. It is interesting to note that most of the countries discussed herein are either from Oceania or other Pacific island nations, or are Middle Eastern countries. This observation gives rise to the notion that cultural perceptions and traditions are what are keeping women out of the higher ranks of government in these places.
10. Papua New Guinea (3% of representatives)
Papua New Guinea’s National Parliament, comprising of a total of 111 members, has only three female representatives. Following independence, the nation’s first elections in 1977 saw three female candidates contesting the elections, from which three were elected. However, today there remain to be only as many women in PNG’s National Parliament as there were in the 1977-1982 legislature. The failure of the country to make any progress in this respect has led to the need to take some special measures. Reservation of a quota of seats for women appeared to be the best choice, though this would have required a constitutional amendment. However, the Bill to amend the Constitution did not receive sufficient votes, and hence was never passed. Women thus continue to be underrepresented in Papua Guinea.
9. Solomon Islands (2% of representatives)
The Solomon Islands have an extremely low female representation, with only 2% of those in the national parliament being women. In 2014, the country passed the Political Parties Integrity Act in order to increase the participation of its women in politics. However, this measure is still quite ineffective, since it sets a very low threshold for the required minimum number of women representatives, and also lacks sufficient sanctions to deal with cases of non-compliance to this gender quota. In the 2014 elections, only 26 women were nominated as candidates, representing 6% of the total nominated candidates, and only 1 of these was actually elected to the parliament.
8. Kuwait (2% of representatives)
Kuwaiti women have long fought for their political rights. Until 2005, the women of this country were not even allowed to vote, let alone contest an election against their male counterparts. Women their first voted in the 2006 elections, which also involved 28 contesting women candidates. Though none of the candidates won a seat, this election was still a major political advancement for these Kuwaiti women. Almost four years later, in 2009, four Kuwaiti women were elected into parliament, representing 2% of the representatives in the country’s parliament. This was another small step in the right direction for equality in Kuwait.
7. Oman (1% of representatives)
Oman’s representation of women in the national parliament has shown no improvement in recent years, with only one female candidate being elected to the parliament out of the total 20 contesting women in the most recent election cycle. What is worse is that the number of contesting female candidates in the 2015 elections was even lower than the 77 women contesting the 2011 elections in the country. The women in the country are thus hoping that the new council members will introduce some kind of quota system as a way to ensure a greater number of women will be elected in future parliamentary elections in Oman.
6. Vanuatu (0% of representatives)
A small nation made up of 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu can definitely boast of its natural beauty and coral reefs. Nonetheless, the country fails miserably in the field of women's representation in national politics there. The last parliamentary elections in 2012 were contested by 17 female candidates, with none winning a seat in the election. Thus, the nations parliament is represented by 0% women. This worrying figure has led the Government to take definitive measures to resolve the issue, and a plan for reserving 30% of the parliament seats for women has been proposed, and hopefully on its way to being approved and executed.
5. Yemen (0% of representatives)
Women in Yemen are badly represented in their nation’s politics. However, the women of this country are not those with spirits that are ready to be subdued. In fact, for decades these women have been protesting and demanding for an expansion of their rights. The 2011 uprising in the country saw a hefty participation by the Yemeni women, as they voiced openly their demands for women’s rights like never before. Though the women of this country vote, and also able to contest in elections, the representation of women in the Yemeni national parliament has sharply decreased in recent decades. Their numbers therein have dropped from 11 in 1993 to 1 in 2003 to none at the present time. After the 2011 uprising, certain proactive measures were taken by the National Dialogue Conference, such as decisions regarding the "women’s quota system", though unfortunately the women of the country feel that little to nothing has been achieved since then.
4. Tonga (0% of representatives)
Though the Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy, between 2006 and 2010 the country underwent a major constitutional reform, which increased the number of legislative seats elected by the public of Tonga from 9 to 17. Besides these 17, 9 members to Tonga’s Legislative Assembly are to be appointed by the Nobles of Tonga, and four by the King. The first elections under this new electoral system, held in 2010, witnessed not a single woman being elected to the Legislative Assembly. However, the King chose a woman as part of his own quota to serve as a member of the Legislative Assembly. The condition did not improve in the 2014 elections in Tonga. That year again, not a single woman, among the 16 women who contested the elections, was elected to Tonga’s Legislative Assembly.
3. Micronesia (0% of representatives)
Micronesia, an archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, is one of the world’s countries with the lowest female representation in national politics. The last elections were held there in March of 2015. That was when the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia most recently participated in elections to elect their 19th Congress. Of the 14 elected candidates in this election, none were women. This is also the only country in the world recording "0" female representatives within its national legislature.
2. Palau (0% of representatives)
Historically, the nation of Palau has not been one for female represntation in its national legislative assembly, as is indicated by the most recent UN World Data Bank statistics. The database gives "0" women as being representede there at their last count. However, more recently a new page has been turned for women's rights in Palau, as 3 women were elected to its parliament in the last election cycle. Namely, these women joining the Olbiil Era Kelulau Senate, alongside ten males, were Kathy Kesolei, Rukebai Inabo, and J. U. Senior.
1. Qatar(0% of representatives)
Women in Qatar do enjoy the right to vote and contest elections, yet the female representation in this country’s politics is quite remarkably low all the same. To encourage greater female participation, the 1999 elections for the Central Municipal Council in Qatar was deliberately held on the 8th of March, the same day as the International Women’s Day. Only one female candidate, however, contested this election. In 2003, another woman, Sheikha Yousuf Hasan Al Jufairi, became the first woman in the country to hold a municipal position, after winning a seat in the elections in 2003. That year also ushered in a major victory for the women of Qatar when Sheikha Ahmed al-Mahmoud was appointed as the first female cabinet minister of the country, chosen by the Emir. In 2015, two women were elected to the CMC. However, despite this slow progress, Qatar still has a 0% representation of female candidates elected by the public in its Consultative Assembly, the legislative body of the Monarchy of Qatar. Hence it is safe to sday that Qatar is still well behind the curve in achieving the goal of gender equality, at least in terms of equal representation for Qatari men and women alike in its national legislature.
Which Country Has the Lowest Representation of Women in Politics?
The countries of Qatar, Palau, Micronesia, Tonga, Yemen, and Vanuatu all have 0% women in their political cabinets.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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